By Nick Snow
CNHI News Service
DALLAS – Playing in a New Year’s Day bowl game is something that would excite most fans but when it was announced that Oklahoma State was headed to the Heart of Dallas Bowl, most fans balked at the opportunity for a short drive.
The same can’t be said for the 27 players with ties to the Dallas Area.
“It’s cool to go back home,” said Oklahoma State sophomore receiver Josh Stewart, a native of Denton, Texas. “A lot of my friends and close family are coming because it’s closer than the usual bowl games. Just to be able to go back to Dallas and play in a bowl close to home is always good. ... I had a lot of people texting me to see if I had any extra tickets and all that stuff. A lot of people will be watching and it’s just motivation for the game. We’re ready to go for sure.”
It’s true that the Cowboys weren’t eyeing the trip to Dallas. Undoubtledly they’d much rather have made a return trip to Phoenix for the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. But now they see it as an opportunity to prove themselves in front of what will likely be a heavily orange-clad crowd.
“We just feel like we get to go back home and make a statement,” Stewart said. “We can let them know that we should be in a better bowl, but we have to take care of business against Purdue.”
For guys redshirt freshman quarterback J.W. Walsh – who like Stewart, hails from Denton – just getting a chance to play in Dallas’ historic Cotton Bowl makes up for any sour feelings about Oklahoma State bowl placement.
“It means a lot,” Walsh said. “Growing up watching games at the Cotton Bowl – the Texas-OU games and the Cotton Bowl itself – the tradition and prestige around that stadium is just unbelievable. It’s really special, especially since I grew up around it. It’s one of the bigger venues to go to when I was a little kid. I’d always dream about playing on that field, so now it’s going to be extra special because it’s on New Year’s Day in a bowl game.”
Making the trip even more special for Walsh and Stewart, Walsh’s father – who coached both players at Guyer High School – will be on hand to see the duo take the field for the Cowboys.
“Me and my dad have a special relationship and any time he’s at the game or after the game I see him, it’s always special,” Walsh said. “It was special in high school to be on the sideline with him, but it’s almost more special and more surreal to have him in the stands. It really shows you how much he cares. It’s not his job to be there. He’s there as a parent supporting me.”
While the immediate families of Walsh and Stewart may have their seats in the Cotton Bowl, getting seats for those more distant relatives and friends has become a challenge for all 27 Dallas players.
“Half our team is from Dallas and they’re looking for tickets just like me,” Stewart said. “It’s going to be pretty tough, I’m sure. It’s going to be first come, first served. I’ve been asking around but haven’t had any luck. I’m still working on it, though.”
Even if Stewart and Walsh can’t find a seat for everybody in their crew, Walsh said just having the opportunity to play in front of so many family and friends has added some excitement to an otherwise somewhat dissappointing bowl trip.
“It’s really exciting to go back to basically my hometown and play in front of my family and friends that are around that area,” Walsh said. “To be able to play really close to home is really special and really exciting. It’s always special any time you get to play in a bowl game, but the fact that you get to play so close to home just makes it that much more special. It’s going to be a great event and I’m excited about it. I was being recruited by OSU the last time they were there in 2009, so that makes it even more special.”